Film Review: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”

David Yates delves further into the wizarding world in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” by uniting an unlikely cast of characters to fight a familiar villain.

People like “Harry Potter.” Not every single person, but there is an undeniable and dedicated fan base that still holds a deep love for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and every character, creature, and place within it. The problem with the “Fantastic Beasts” series is that it is not “Harry Potter.” It is not the same as the original series, and added on top of that is a mess of controversies concerning several people involved in the film. There are many reasons to not watch the newest “Fantastic Beasts” film that have nothing to do with plot. However, there are also reasons why you might want to watch it anyway. As I waited at the theater to see “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the majority of people in line wore full sets of wizards’ robes, proudly displayed their Hogwarts houses on their clothes, and carried wands alongside their popcorn. This series may have its flaws, but it also carries great importance in many communities and has shown its capability to transport people back into the world they have cherished for so long.

The first “Fantastic Beasts” film was a fun and low-stakes movie about creatures escaping into 1920s New York City, while “The Crimes of Grindelwald” was a more dour look into American magical politics as Grindelwald was established as the film series’ villain. “The Secrets of Dumbledore” strikes more of a balance between its predecessors, resulting in a story that is easier to follow and will most likely set the tone for the series going forward. As tension grows in the wizarding world, Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits a team including Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), brother Theseus (Callum Turner), muggle ally Jacob (Dan Fogler), Hogwarts professor Hicks (Jessica Williams), and several magical creatures to thwart Grindelwald’s rise in power. Along the way, the team faces a growing crowd of Grindelwald’s supporters, including his powerful allies Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol).

One of the most important elements of this film is the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Fans have felt strongly about Dumbledore for years because of his guiding role in Harry Potter’s life. Some like him, some don’t, but his story is one of the most nuanced in the wizarding world. Dumbledore spent his entire life feeling guilty about his childhood friendship with dark wizard Grindelwald and the role this relationship played in his sisters’ death. In “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” a younger Dumbledore is forced to come to terms with this past and tries to redeem himself from his mistakes. Jude Law is the perfect choice to play the titular role with calm caution, and Mads Mikkelsen counterbalances him by playing Grindelwald with confident wickedness. The dynamic between Law and Mikkelsen is tense, dramatic, and personal, yet it is pushed aside in favor of a different protagonist. This sidestepping leads to one of the biggest puzzles of the film: what does Newt Scamander have to do with Gellert Grindelwald?

There is a disconnect between our hero and our villain. Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship is fascinating and complex, but Dumbledore remains hovering around the edge of the narrative, waiting for a role to fill despite being the titular character. Instead, the narrative revolves around Newt Scamander, a magizoologist who spent his time at Hogwarts studying magical creatures. He is an unusual person to call when battling an immensely skilled and evil wizard, considering the facts. There is no proof he has been trained to fight or possesses any great skill except for carrying around his trunk of creatures. On the other hand, there are indubitable positives that come with his inclusion: Newt brings an awkward, understated kindness everywhere he goes. Fans have clamored for a Hufflepuff to take the spotlight ever since the original series, and Newt is an unique and likable character who fills the role. Though he is an illogical choice of protagonist, Dumbledore’s reasons have always been masked in mystery and hopefully more will be revealed about Newt’s role as the series progresses.

So far, the “Fantastic Beasts” series has proven itself to not be the next “Harry Potter” — but that is a practically impossible standard to live up to. “Harry Potter” was a cultural phenomenon that people grew up with and still carry near their hearts. People celebrate the series, announce their Hogwarts houses as a banner of pride, and remain excited to see each and every spinoff in hopes of catching a glimpse of the original magic. “The Secrets of Dumbledore” does not always fulfill this wish. It does not always make sense, the main characters are clearly less powerful than their opponents, and the stakes never feel as important or as personal as the connection and conflict between Harry Potter and Voldemort. Nevertheless, this film still has magic. If you liked “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” you will probably like “The Secrets of Dumbledore” because this series continues to expand a beloved magical world and expresses a lot of heart through its earnest characters.

Grade: C
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen
Release Date: April 6, 2022
Rated: PG-13

Image courtesy of GamesRadar.

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